by Rob Roper
Judging by the level applause, the crowd in Lebanon, New Hampshire, was a friendly one for Mitt Romney. But, judging by the questions it was not so much. The critics were small but vocal, the supporters were abundant but quiet.
Romney has to hope that this dynamic of a lot more support in reality than in appearance holds true nation-wide his expressed desire is to come true. “I want to get it right this time. I want to win this time,” he explained in his opening remarks.
During the prepared half of his presentation, Romney stressed his patriotism, respect for the wisdom of the Founding Fathers, and dedication to small government ideals. “We’re a nation of pioneers and innovators. I love that about America,” said Romney. “And I recognize that what America is, what allowed us to accomplish these great things flows from the extraordinary brilliance of the founders of this great nation. When they had a choice, the decide that rather than have a nation run by a government they said let’s have a nation run by people…. We could do what we like with our lives. Pursue our dreams as we wish. Succeed or fail was our choice.
Romney recognized that this is, indeed, the root of American exceptionalism. “And, by virtue of those freedoms – political freedom; economic freedom – America became the place on the planet pioneers wanted to come. Innovators wanted to be here. It allowed our economy to outperform any in the world.”
“I don’t believe that government is the source of our greatness. I believe that free people pursuing their dreams is the source of America’s greatness and always will be.” But, he went on, “Now, I’m a little concerned that some folks think that government knows better than we do, and want to put government more and more into the affairs of enterprise. More and more into how we live our lives. I don’t think that the government knows better than the American people. I think people know better than government.”
This statement seems to conflict with the individual mandate to purchase health insurance in Massachusetts under the law Romney signed as governor. “Romneycare,” which his opponents have dubbed it, forces citizens to buy insurance whether they want to or not. If people know better than government in this respect, they are not free to exercise that judgment. This issue has dogged Romney in his campaign so far, and will likely continue to do so.
During the question and answer session, Romney tried to shake the Obamacare/Romneycare connection by stating, “Day one, if I am elected president of the Unitd States, I will call in the Secretary of Health and Human Services and I will say to him or her, I would like you to create a waver from Obamacare for all fifty states. So, I would stop it on day one. No Obamacare.”
A more comfortable topic for Mitt Romney is jobs. Here, he took off the gloves to some extent to go after President Obama. “So I look at what’s happening right now and I’ve got to tell you I’m concerned. We’ve got twenty-five million Americans that are out of work, or have stopped looking for work, or they’ve got part time work and they need full time jobs. Twenty-five million! And the president came into office he said give me 787 billion dollars, and I’ll keep unemployment below 8%. It hasn’t been below 8% since. Thirty months. Still above 8%. How is it that was the case. What went wrong? Well, what went wrong was that government thought it could do better than the American people at free enterprise, how to run our lives and our economy.”
Romney places the blame for economic failure directly at the feet of the president’s policies. “The president pushed a number of things which did the one thing businesses can’t deal with. Business owners can’t deal with uncertainty. And when the president came in he pushed something called Cap and Trade to raise the cost of energy. That made enterprises that use energy less certain about the future. Same thing with Card Check [a law that would make it easier for unions to organize]. That made enterprises that were thinking of hiring people less certain about the future. Obamacare. If you’re in the healthcare sector, you have no idea what’s coming down the road….Almost everything he did made it less likely for businesses to invest and to grow and to add jobs.
Romney thinks he has the background to fix what Obama has broken. “I happen to believe that it’s time for somebody who’s had a job to lead the country so that we can create jobs for the American people. I’ve spent my life in the real economy and by that I mean I haven’t just watched jobs get created and saved. I did that myself. I know how the economy works…. Then I went off to the Olympics. That was in trouble, and along with some other great people got that back on its feet…. I believe it will be helpful in Washington to have some people and particularly a president who knows the economy because he’s lived the economy.”
Questions & Answers
Hard questions by the audience drew some specific policy positions from Romney, who handled the largely hostile questioners pretty well.
In regard to the debt and the deficit, Romney stood by his written pledge to support Cut, Cap and Balance. “I want to cut federal spending, I want to cap federal spending as a percentage of the American economy, and I want to have a balanced budget amendment…. I think government is too big. And there are some who say, well, why don’t you raise taxes a little. Compromise with the Democrats. We’ve been doing that too much in terms of spending too much…. Republcans and Democrats have spent too much money in my view.”
One woman was appalled that anyone would ever consider balancing the federal budget. She blasted Romney, saying, “People expect their governments to help them. How do you think the government cannot provide funds for the people, its citizens?”
Romeny was having none of it. “Of course government provides funds for its people. Of course we take care of America when there are natural disasters. Of course we honor our promises to seniors. Of course it costs money. But not more than you take in!”
Romney also disappointed a global warming alarmist in the audience who wanted to hear about the candidate’s “carbon policy”
“Do I think the world’s getting hotter? Yeah,” said Romney. “I don’t know that, but I think it is. Do I think we contribute to it? I don’t know how much… So, what I’m not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don’t know the answer to. What I will do happens to be follow an energy policy, which some call a “no regrets” policy… which is to say, let’s develop sources of energy which happen to be domestic which are not CO2 emitting. That includes nuclear, natural gas…let’s develop clean coal technologies. So, my view is let’s pursue a strategy that gets us energy independent. That’s my highest priority. And, it has as a byproduct, the advantage of being less CO2 emitting than our current policy…. I do not believe in Cap and Trade. I do not support a carbon tax.”
“There are other people who would like to put in place a cap and trade program,” said Romeny, “and dramatically increase the cost of energy. That’s their view, and by the way, that will kill an awful lot of jobs. And, I don’t think it’s going to solve the problem of global warming that you described.”
The big question on the night, not to mention for the entire campaign and the country, was jobs. What would Mitt Romney do to help create jobs in America? He outlined seven things:
1. Create a corporate tax structure that is competitive with the rest of the world. 2. Streamline and modernize regulation so that our regulatory structure encourages rather than discourages enterprise. 3. Demand fair and honest trade policies between the US and other countries. 4. Have an energy policy based on developing more domestic energy and decreasing reliance on foreign sources. 5. Restore a focus on the rule of law, which means, “you can’t have the National Labor Relations Board tell Boeing they can’t build a factory in South Carolina because it’s a right to work state.” 6. Develop human capital through education, including more school choice. And, 7. Getting our fiscal house in order, including a balanced budget.
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